The COMAC C919 is a part of China’s efforts to gain significant market share in the production of large commercial airliners. And after receiving type certification from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) last week, we will reveal all that we know about the largest commercial airliner designed and built in China.
Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC)
On May 11, 2008, COMAC, a state-owned manufacturer in China, was founded in Shanghai with the primary goal of being a major player in the large airliner manufacturing market, mentioning that this is one of the most technologically challenging industries. Boeing and Airbus have remained the major players in this market for so long, evidence of their expertise and resilience in the face of adversity.
COMAC intends to have solutions for every segment of the airliner manufacturing market, beginning with one-third of the world’s airliner needs; the 158 – 174 seat market (which Boeing and Airbus are fiercely competing over, as these aircraft are the backbone of Low-Cost Carrier fleets); the C919, the C292, offering 300 seats and the C939 offering 400 seats
The C919 is a twin-engined, low-wing, single-aisle aircraft designed and built in China that is similar in layout to the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. In appearance, it resembles the A320 more than the 737. The nose section is sleek looking much like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, whereas the tail section of the fuselage is more Airbus-like, with the cabin roof rather than the Boeing style f having a cone with the endpoint halfway between the top and bottom of the fuselage.
READ | What’s special about A320?
Design and production
Shanghai is the main focus of the C919’s design and production. The various components that comprise the C919 are manufactured by other entities, as the condition with Airbus and Boeing. The flaps, ailerons, wing panels, center, and outer wing boxes, for example, are manufactured in Xi’an, China. Jiangxi Province will produce the fuselage sections. These components will be assembled in Shanghai to form the final product C919. The majority of the C919’s airframe is made of aluminum alloys, with the center wing box made of carbon fiber composite materials.
Is it 100% Chinese?
While the C919 is said to be China’s own homegrown airliner, many parts are still supplied by foreign manufacturers. This is not surprising given that both Boeing and Airbus use the same strategy in the production of their own airliners. While the list of suppliers currently includes many non-Chinese entities, this is only until China can develop its own technology to manufacture these parts. The engines currently supplied by the General Electric-AVIC joint venture, for example, will be replaced by the Chinese-developed CJ1000. While the C919 is said to be China’s own homegrown airliner, many parts are still supplied by foreign manufacturers.
This is not surprising given that both Boeing and Airbus use the same strategy in the production of their own airliners. While the list of suppliers currently includes many non-Chinese entities, this is only until China can develop its own technology to manufacture these parts. The engines currently supplied by the General Electric-AVIC joint venture, for example, will be replaced by the Chinese-developed CJ1000. The following is a list of some of the main component suppliers for the C919:
|Engines||Leap X1C engine supplied by CFMI, a joint venture between US-based General Electric and French-based SNECMA.|
|Avionics||Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, CETC, GE AVIC, (General Electric joint venture with AVIC (Aviation Industry Corporation of China)|
|Fight Control System – Full Authority Fly by wire and advanced active control technology.||Parker, AVIC, Honeywell, MOOG|
|Landing Gear System||Liebherr|
|Hydraulic System||Parker, AVIC|
|Air Conditioning System||Liebherr|
|Electric System||Hamilton, Sundstrand, AVIC|
|Flight Deck and Cabin Interior||FACC, XML|
|APU (auxiliary power unit)||Honeywell, AVIC|
|Fire protection||KIDDE, AVIC|
|Lighting System||Goodrich, AVIC, TM, Jiuzhou, Eaton|
COMAC C919’s Orders
28 Chinese customers have reportedly already placed 815 orders with Comac for the C919, though the majority of these haven’t been confirmed and many come from lessors who haven’t yet found an airline for the aircraft. 2,241 Boeing and Airbus narrowbody aircraft, are currently in service, including at least 546 more on order, with the so-called “big three” airlines of China: China Eastern, Air China Ltd., China Southern Airlines Co., and Hainan Airlines.
For the time being, the plane will only be able to fly within China until it is certified by foreign regulators. Earlier, the US Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment, directing inquiries to Chinese regulators. Normally, the FAA would review the design of another country’s jet to certify it for use in the US, but given the current tensions between the two countries and China’s lack of action on restoring the 737 Max to service, it’s unclear how that will work in this case.
According to a spokeswoman for the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), EASA has been working with Comac and the Chinese regulator for several years, but “cannot comment on the date when this validation would be completed.“
The 156-174 seat C919 is the first iteration of COMAC’s planned family of airliners.
This will be the smallest of the plane makers’ offerings, and it appears to be available in six different configurations. The offerings are called: Baseline, Stretched, Freighter, Shortened, Business and Specials.
The flight deck of the C919 is very similar to that of the Airbus, with a side stick instead of a yoke as in Boeing airliners. The instrumentation is cutting-edge, with two 15.4-inch main display screens in front of each pilot and a 12.5-inch side screen beneath the window. In addition, the C919 will be available with a HUD (Head Up Display).
|C919 Mixed Class||C919 ALL ECONOMY||C919 HIGH DENSITY|
|Seating||158 in 2 classes||168 in all economy||174 in all economy|
|Seating Pitch||12 seats – 97cm 144 seats – 81cm||168 seats – 81cm||174 seats – 76cm|
|Fuselage Length||38.9 Metres|
|Fuselage Width||3.95 Metres|
|Tail Height||11.95 Metres|
|Wing Span||35.8 Metres|
|Wing Area||129.15 Square Metres|
|Cabin Width||3.9 Metres|
|Cabin Height||2.25 Metres|
|MTOW||72,500 kg – 77,300 kg|
|Maximum Fuel||24,364 L|
|Maximum Payload||20,400 kg|
|Empty Weight||42,100 kg|
|Range Fully Laden||Standard – 4,075 km (2,200 nm)|
Extended Range – 5,555 km (2,999 nm)
|Cruise||Mach .785 / 598 mph / 969 Kph|
|Take-off Distance||2,000 M / 6,600 ft|
Extended Range 2,200 M / 7,200 ft
|Service Ceiling||12,100 M / 39,700 ft|
|Approach Speed||135 kn / 250 kph|
|Landing/Span||1,600 M / 5,200 ft|
|Engines||CFM International LEAP 1C / COMAC CJ-1000A|
|Thrust||137.9 kN (31,000 lbf)|
B737MAX Vs. A320NEO Vs. C919
It is well known that China has the second-largest and most significant civil aviation market in the world, closely following the United States of America, and according to predictions, more people will fly between, to, and from China than any other country in the world in less than ten years. Due to this and in an effort to limit the amount of imported aircraft entering China, COMAC decided to create its own family of short- and medium-range aircraft, ensuring that the oligopoly led by Airbus and Boeing won’t hinder the growth of the civil aviation market within China.
Furthermore, given that the majority of Chinese airlines are owned by the government, it stands to reason that they would favor the C919 for their medium-haul programs. If that is the case, Airbus and Boeing would suffer greatly because COMAC and other Chinese manufacturers would gradually take over the roughly 80% of the market that they currently hold.
|Airbus A320 Family||Boeing 737 Family||COMAC C919|
|Passenger Capacity||140-244||137-230||158 – 168|
|Range (Maximum)||5,430 miles||4,430 miles||3,450 miles|
So, what do you think about the C919, and do you think that COMAC will be a challenging competitor for Boeing and Airbus? Let us know your opinion below.